How Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers interact

The workforce has become a diverse community of generations. Boomers are around 45 – 65 years old now, Gen X are around 30 – 45, and Gen Ys (also known as “Millennials”) are around 20 – 30 years old. (The generations blend together a bit, so these are approximate age ranges).

Their work styles vary quite a bit, and when it comes to meetings, they have completely different views and opinions on them and how they should work. Each style has pros and cons, which is important to understand to be able to have your team working as cohesively as possible so you can have meaningful, productive meetings:

Gen Y: Prefer casual, short meetings.

We grew up on instant-gratification. We need responses right away. We need feedback as we go. And the technology we grew up with allowed us to get instant responses. (i.e. email on our smart phones, instant messaging, etc).

None of this changes when it comes to the workplace, we want it now. Instead of blocking out time for a meeting on a project with our colleague, we’d rather drop by their desk for a quick minute and ask questions or give updates on the work as we go. We need answers and we don’t like waiting if an idea is fresh in our head. I’ll also attest to this as well – I’d much rather take 10 minutes now to talk with a colleague about a project, then wait for the following Wednesday’s weekly meeting.

Pro:

  • These series of short, casual meetings helps us stay up-to-date and don’t prevent us from making progress on a project waiting on a scheduled, longer meeting.
  • We can hash out ideas right away than losing the idea waiting for a scheduled meeting.

Con:

  • It’s an interruption. Constant drop-ins and multiple short meetings doesn’t bother Gen Ys so much, but it really annoys Gen X & Boomers.
  • We don’t always think things through or prepare before stopping by someone else’s office to talk to them about it.

Gen X: Prefer prepared, scheduled meetings.

When working on a project with someone else, Gen Xers would much rather schedule a meeting one-on-one to discuss a project or an issue and hash it all out with the person over a longer meeting.

They’re more individualistic, and though they like working in teams, they like getting the meaty work done on their own. They want to collect all the data and information about something first and then bring it to other eyes.

Before meeting with a colleague or boss, they’re more likely to organize their thoughts first, get all the information together, and think it through really hard, and then come to their boss. (I’ll admit, Gen Ys don’t always do this very well.) This is why they tend to prefer to schedule meetings. Being pulled away from their work often for “drop-ins” is much more interruptive to them than for Gen Ys. They need to feel in control of their time.

Since most Gen Xers are the bosses of Gen Ys, they find themselves telling employees to “think it through first, then come back to me” instead of coming to them right away about something.

Pros:

  • Well thought-out/prepared meetings with clear focuses
  • Able to have time to collect info/facts to the table to hash out

Cons:

  • You don’t get immediate response/feedback. Have to wait for their response to move forward on something
  • Slows down internal processes and work, results in more conservative deadlines

Boomers: Need face-to-face meetings to conduct business.

Boomers are the generation of meetings. If there’s a problem, you have a meeting a hash it out. Not just one-to-one, Boomers want everyone involved. If you have an idea or proposal, you all meet to talk about it and brainstorm. If you need help on something, you have a meeting with your boss or coworker to work on it. Meetings are where things happen, it’s how decisions are made for Boomers.

Hierarchy plays a role here as well. There’s a political realm that evolves around meetings. You can’t just schedule a meeting with your boss’s boss for example. If you have an idea, you see if your boss is willing to meet about it first. Then they take it to their boss. (Gen Ys dislike this).

They also, like Gen X need all the data and facts presented. They’ll push back on ideas, so make sure you’re prepared to respond. They don’t want you wasting their time – they have a job to do and work to get done. They’re more direct than Gen X – they want straight talk and hard answers.

Meetings are where you build relationships, and business is all about relationships – and Boomers really practice this.

Pros:

  • Meeting face-to-face is the best form of communication. You get non-verbal communications (i.e. emotions, personality traits, non-verbal cues) that help you more accurately form and shape the personality and perception of the person you’re dealing with.

Cons:

  • This communication calls for lots of meetings, which takes a lot of time out of your day.
  • Other generations aren’t open to having as many meetings and working around people’s schedules (since Gen X values time management) .

Understanding and knowing how your employees value meeting styles and time is key to working cohesively. How is your meeting style working for your younger and older workers? Do you need to be more flexible to folks with other styles?

 

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Yes, again you’ve nailed it!..I love the way you write and present your posts…Plus and minus in every geneneration…But X is best! Ha.

  2. Yes, again you’ve nailed it!..I love the way you write and present your posts…Plus and minus in every geneneration…But X is best! Ha.

  3. I think you’re right on it. Well done.

  4. I think you’re right on it. Well done.

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